Data Files to be Uploaded with your PCB Order.Sstencil-mate

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Types of PCB Data Files

There are several types of data files used in PCB manufacturing, each serving a specific purpose. Let’s take a closer look at the most common ones:

Gerber Files

Gerber files are the industry standard for PCB design data exchange. They contain information about the copper layers, solder mask, silkscreen, and drill holes of your PCB. Gerber files are generated from your PCB design software and are essential for the manufacturing process.

Gerber files typically include:

  • GTL: Top copper layer
  • GBL: Bottom copper layer
  • GTO: Top overlay (silkscreen)
  • GBO: Bottom overlay (silkscreen)
  • GTS: Top solder mask
  • GBS: Bottom solder mask
  • GTP: Top paste mask
  • GBP: Bottom paste mask

Drill Files

Drill files, also known as NC drill files or Excellon files, contain information about the location, size, and type of drill holes on your PCB. These files are used by the manufacturer to program the drilling machines that create the holes in your board.

Drill files usually come in two formats:

  1. Through-hole drill file: Contains information about the holes that go completely through the PCB.
  2. Blind and buried via drill file: Contains information about holes that don’t go completely through the board, such as those used for connecting inner layers.

Pick and Place Files

Pick and place (PnP) files are used for automated assembly of surface mount components on your PCB. These files contain information about the location, orientation, and part number of each component. PnP files help the manufacturer program their pick and place machines, ensuring accurate and efficient component placement.

Bill of Materials (BOM)

The bill of materials (BOM) is a list of all the components required to assemble your PCB. It includes information such as the part number, quantity, description, and manufacturer for each component. The BOM helps the manufacturer ensure they have all the necessary components on hand before starting the assembly process.

IPC-356 Netlist

The IPC-356 netlist is a file that describes the electrical connectivity of your PCB. It contains information about the nets (electrical connections) between components and is used for testing and verification purposes. The netlist helps the manufacturer ensure that your PCB is functioning as intended.

Generating and Uploading PCB Data Files

Now that you’re familiar with the different types of PCB data files, let’s discuss how to generate and upload them when placing your PCB order.

Generating Files from PCB Design Software

Most PCB design software, such as Altium Designer, KiCad, and Eagle, have built-in features to generate the necessary data files for manufacturing. Follow these general steps to generate the files:

  1. Complete your PCB design, ensuring all components are placed, routed, and checked for errors.
  2. Access the file generation or CAM output menu in your software.
  3. Select the desired output format (e.g., Gerber, drill, PnP) and configure the settings according to your manufacturer’s requirements.
  4. Generate the files and save them in a designated folder.

Uploading Files to the Manufacturer

Once you have generated the necessary data files, you’ll need to upload them when placing your PCB order. Most PCB manufacturers provide an online platform or portal where you can submit your files. Here’s a general process:

  1. Create an account or log in to the manufacturer’s website.
  2. Start a new PCB order and provide the basic specifications (e.g., quantity, board size, layer count).
  3. Upload the generated data files (Gerber, drill, PnP, BOM, netlist) when prompted. Ensure the files are zipped or compressed if required by the manufacturer.
  4. Review your order details and data files to ensure accuracy.
  5. Submit your order and wait for the manufacturer to review and confirm the files.

Common Mistakes and Best Practices

To ensure a smooth PCB manufacturing process, it’s essential to avoid common mistakes and follow best practices when preparing and uploading your data files.

Common Mistakes

  1. Incomplete or missing files: Double-check that you have generated and uploaded all the necessary data files (Gerber, drill, PnP, BOM, netlist) before submitting your order.

  2. Incorrect file formats: Ensure your files are in the formats specified by your manufacturer. Most manufacturers accept standard formats like Gerber RS-274X and Excellon.

  3. Inconsistent units: Make sure all your data files use the same unit system (e.g., metric or imperial) to avoid confusion and errors.

  4. Outdated or incorrect component information: Verify that your BOM and PnP files contain up-to-date and accurate information about your components.

Best Practices

  1. Use a consistent naming convention: Adopt a clear and consistent naming convention for your data files to make them easily identifiable.

  2. Compress files before uploading: Zip or compress your data files before uploading to reduce transfer time and ensure data integrity.

  3. Communicate with your manufacturer: If you have any questions or concerns about the data files, reach out to your manufacturer for guidance.

  4. Keep a backup: Always keep a backup of your PCB design files and generated data files for future reference or revisions.


  1. What if I’m missing a required data file?

If you realize you’re missing a required data file after submitting your order, contact your manufacturer immediately. They will guide you on how to proceed and provide the missing file.

  1. Can I use different PCB design software to generate the data files?

Yes, most PCB manufacturers accept data files generated from various PCB design software, as long as they are in the standard formats (e.g., Gerber, Excellon).

  1. How do I know which data files my manufacturer requires?

Most manufacturers provide a list of required data files on their website or in their PCB Ordering guide. If unsure, reach out to their support team for clarification.

  1. What happens if my data files have errors?

If your manufacturer detects errors in your data files, they will typically contact you and request revised files. This can delay your order, so it’s essential to double-check your files before submitting.

  1. Can I request a review of my data files before starting production?

Many manufacturers offer a free file review service, where they check your data files for errors or inconsistencies before starting production. This can help catch issues early and avoid delays.

By understanding the importance of PCB data files and following best practices for generating and uploading them, you can streamline your PCB ordering process and ensure a successful manufacturing experience.

Data File Purpose
Gerber Files Contain information about copper layers, solder mask, etc.
Drill Files Specify location, size, and type of drill holes
Pick and Place Used for automated component placement
Bill of Materials List of components required for assembly
IPC-356 Netlist Describes electrical connectivity for testing

Table 1: Summary of key PCB data files and their purposes.

By providing complete and accurate data files, communicating effectively with your manufacturer, and staying organized throughout the process, you can bring your PCB designs to life with minimal hassle. Happy PCB ordering!